LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 34, No. 1 - Spring 1988
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
Copyright © 1988 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
"REPETITION AND METAPHOR": A STUDY OF WALLACE STEVENS AND HENRIKAS RADAUSKAS
With the publication of his first collection of poems, Harmonium, in 1923, Wallace Stevens was considered an aesthete, a "dandy of eloquence": his verse was remarkable for refinement, a "shimmer of language" and "succession of glittering images".1 These qualities, as well as a growing concern with poetry as the subject of poetry, are evident throughout the Collected Poems of 1954, especially "Parts of a World" of 1942 and "Transport to Summer", 1947. They become more like the tip of an iceberg, or sparkling sea surface, an adornment of poetry of Nature. In "Notes toward a Supreme Fiction", Stevens' aestheticism is elucidated mainly as a predilection for change, novelty and inventiveness in language, to the extent that "poetry becomes and is a transcendent analogue composed of the particulars of reality" and "the poem is a nature created by the poet".2 Northrop Frye calls Stevens a "realistic oriole"; Harold Bloom characterizes him as a poet of the American Sublime, in the tradition of Romanticism.3
In his practice of pure poetry, organic sense of style, and the luxuriant imagery of his verse, Stevens bears Shakespearean resemblance to the Lithuanian poet Henrikas Radauskas (1910-1970), who was apt to be considered an "alcoholic of the arts" on account of verbal preciosity and the transformative force of his language, which creates a viable aesthetic continuum of its own.4 Radauskas is approximately synchronous with Stevens: his Poems of 1965 comprise "The Fountain", the first collection of 1935; "Arrow in the Sky" of 1950; "Winter Song" of 1955; and "Lightnings and Winds", 1965. Stevens' Opus Posthumous appeared in 1957; Radauskas' in 1978. Radauskas came to the United States in 1949, settling first in Chicago, later in Washington, D.C., where he worked for the Library of Congress. For a decade, he was an Easterner, like Stevens.
Radauskas and Stevens are comparable with respect to a classical tendency in their poetry: a balance in the broadest sense between thought and feeling, imagination and reality, permanence and change. Rimvydas Šilbajoris's study of Radauskas's poetry entitled "The Passion of the Intellect", as well as Alfonsas Nyka-Niliūnas's Introduction to the pos-thumous Poems, noting an increasing emphasis on symmetry and the norm,5 are informative on this issue. Stevens speaks for himself, in numerous essays and his Letters, for example. "One writes poetry ... in order to approach the good in what is harmonious and orderly", he states in "The Irrational Element in Poetry".6 According to Samuel French Morse,
Again and again he insisted that a successful work of art achieved integration of imagination and reality 'as equals' . . . the 'supreme fiction', synonymous with poetry, is life at its most satisfying, when everything composes itself in proportion and order, when even change composes, too'. 7
While a comparison of the two poets is suggested by complementary colors and sounds in their verse, particularly nature imagery, the subject of "repetition and metaphor" relates to and uncovers this balance or concern with the norm. It is also relevant to Stevens' concept of analogy, mentioned in the first paragraph, and to mutual illumination. An eclectic methodology follows from the organic style for which both collections are renowned.
Both Stevens and Radauskas responded to the "correspondent breeze" and to dream pictures reflecting forms in space, acknowledging a universe of subconscious repetitions, indicating the irrational element in their poetry. Stevens' "Nomad Exquisite" and "Jasmine's Beautiful Thoughts Underneath the Willow," like Radauskas' "Dream" and "Birth of a Song," simply express poetic sensibility, creating pure "poetry of the subject".8
As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth hymn and hymn
From the beholder,
Beholding all these green sides
And gold sides of green sides,
And blessed mornings,
And lightning colors
So, in me, come flinging
Forms, flames, and the flakes of flames.
(Nomad Exquisite", The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, New York: Knopf, 1957, 95).
. . . Many
Taip pat atsimuša kalnai ir upės,
Ir supas paukštis, ant šakos nutūpęs,
Ir plaukia žydros žuvys vandeny
Manosios sielos. Vaikščioju po rojų
Ir giesmes angelo paskui kartoju.
. . . Within me
Also reflect hills and rivers
And a bird swings, perched on a branch,
And azure fish swim in the waters
Of my soul. I am walking in paradise
Repeating the hymns of an angel.
("Dream" "Sapnas," Henrikas Radauskas, Eilėraščiai Poems, Chicago, 1965, 129).
My titillations have no foot-notes
And their memorials are the phrases
Of idiosyncratic music.
The love that will not be transported
In an old, frizzled, flambeaued manner,
But muses on its eccentricity,
Is like a vivid apprehension
Of bliss beyond the mutes of plaster,
Or paper souvenirs of rapture,
Of bliss submerged beneath appearance,
In an interior ocean's rocking
Of long, capricious fugues and chorals
("Jasmine's Beautiful Thoughts", 79).
Aš nestatau namų, aš nevedu tautos,
Aš sėdžiu po šakom akacijos baltos,
Ir vėjas dangiškas j jos lapus atklysta,
Ir paukštis čiulbantis joj suka savo lizdą,
Ir skamba medyje melodija tyli,
O aš klausausi jos ir užrašau smėly,
Ir vamzdj paimu ir groju, ir dainuoju
Su vėju ir paukščiu ir su medžiu baltuoju,
Ir ūžia debesys nežemiškos spalvos
Virš tos dainuojančios ir grojančios kalvos.
I do not build homes, nor lead nations,
I sit beneath the branches of a white acacia,
A celestial wind happens upon its leaves,
Where a humming bird builds its nest,
And a soft melody resounds in the tree,
I listen and write it in the sand,
I take a reed-pipe, play and sing
With the wind, the bird and the white tree,
While clouds of unearthly colors whirl
Above that singing, playing ground.
("Dainos Gimimas" "Birth of a Song," p. 125).
Their poetry begins as a celebration of a universe of correspondences, familiar since Romanticism, and develops into fictive spheres or aesthetic continuums with imagery that is uniquely characteristic of each poet. In Stevens, for example, there is a recurrence of the image of the player on an instrument, as Frank Doggett has noted (1980: 74). Poetry is frequently imagined as "plucking on strings": by the angel in "Notes toward a Supreme Fiction"; "The Man with the Blue Guitar", strumming "a tune beyond us as we are"; the actor in "Of Modern Poetry",
A metaphysician in the dark, twanging
An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives
Sounds passing through certain rightnesses . . . (CP, 239-40)
In "Peter Quince at the Clavier", feelings move fingers on the keys. Perceptions of the sea and of a vase of flowers, in "Variations on a Summer Day" and "Woman Looking at a Vase of Flowers", is conceived as improvising on the piano. Radauskas, on the other hand, paints things floating in the air, a leaf and an oak tree alike: "a leaf swims through the great sky" ("Lapas plaukia per didžiulį dangų," OP, 29); "It [the oak tree] glides in space, majestic and wide, / like an old sailing vessel, to distant shores" ("Ir plaukia jis erdvėj, didingas ir platus, / Kaip senas burlaivis j tolimus kraštus", 161). In a poem entitled "Miracle" (157), lilacs rush out of the garden, through warbling air; in "The Flood of Spring" (145), Pleiades fly. The well-known "Arrow in the Sky" portrays the poet as an arrow, which is shot in turn by a child, a hunter and a mad soldier, and finally wanders among frigid constellations.
As metaphors of the creative process, the images of the man with the blue guitar and the arrow in the sky indicate the particular orientations of each poetStevens' impressionism and Radauskas's expressionism within the field of beauty, musicality and heightened feeling that belongs to the tradition of Symbolism. Stevens excels in descriptions of moments of the day, such as "late coffee and oranges in a sunny chair" ("Sunday Morning"), and the play of light on surfaces in relation to "our sense of them . . . the way we feel" ("Bouquet of Roses in Sunlight"). The sound of the musical instrument records this interplay between poetic sensibility and reality. As raw material for the imagination, nature, for Stevens, abounds in versions of things, as language does to an even greater extent. "Words add to the senses. The words for the dazzle of mica, the dithering of grass. . . are the eye grown larger", he writes in "Variations on a Summer Day", xiv. For Radauskas, nature seems to be a puzzle, which language reassembles and reorganizes, or a mound of clay that is formally shaped in order to enhance the incipient geometry in terms of the emotional impact a scene makes on the poet. The spatial forms in his poems are indeed vivid, for instance, in "Landscape", two trees roll like balls, surrounded by slippery, glass winds . . . the landscape descends from hill to river, the sky and sun splash to the sides ("Peizažas," p. 159). Summer, "like an odalisque, lazily faints from the heat" (p. 156). "Rain patters through the garden on thin glass legs" (p. 164). Such imagery, in the context of intricate rhythmical and metrical structures, makes for the "cult of form" observed in criticism of Radauskas's verse.9
Both poets begin with affective perception, however, and their conceptions overlap. The blue guitar itself is a form in "the overcast blue of the air" (CP, 169). The arrow pierces an apple tree in bloom and comes down in a shower of white petals, blending with foam, like the clouds in Stevens' "Sea Surface". Moreover, Stevens' poems occasionally appear cubist; Radauskas', surreal.
The difference is most important with regard to their divergent perspectives on verse form, and the quantitative imbalance between the two collections. According to his own statements, Stevens was inclined to disregard form or "to be free in whatever form is used".10 The metrical and stanzaic organization of his verse appears to propel thought, often toward epics, for example, the iambic tetrameter and couplets of "The Man with the Blue Guitar", or to facilitate symmetry in the entire composition. By contrast, Radauskas held to Théophile Gautier's requirement that the Muse wear a tight shoe, cothurne êtroit, as Miliūnas explains in his "Introduction" to the Poems of 1978. With the exception of approximately twenty prose poems and a number in free verse, Radauskas preferred the epic stanzaic convention, often folk song quatrains. Though anti-lyrical, he tended to be brief. Whereas Stevens wrote theoretical essays in addition to poetry (and plays), notably "The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and Imagination" (1942), Radaus-kas's poetic theory must be inferred from his poems. There are no manuscript versions of Radauskas's verse; only the four notebooks which constitute his published work.11
* * *
Among Stevens' and Radauskas's poems on poetry, the nominal subject is occasionally obscured by nature imagery, so that the subject is either nature as reality ("things as they are") or the process of writing over and over again. Such poems appear to be motivated by an ambivalent attitude toward nature: admiration alternative with opposition, in response to the perpetual rhythm of chaos and order, motion and stasis, in the physical world. In a poem entitled "The Storm" ("Audra") by Radauskas, the poet writes verse both with and against raging winds, falling rains, and spreading fires: the conjunction between nature imagery in the first three lines of each stanza and the refrain "you write ..." is alternately "and" or "but" (p. 101). While "The Romantic Poets" "melted in orchards" and "were covered by a warm slumber, in which poems ripened like fruits" ("Poetai romantikai", p. 96), in "Poets or Catastrophe", verse emerges from destruction and the glow of fire: "strophes burn like coals between butterflies and flowers" ("kaip žarijos žėri strofos tarp peteliškių ir gėlių", p. 134). With reference to Stevens' essay "On the Irrational Element in Poetry", the topic of poetry competes with the "poetry of the subject", the influence of poetic sensibility on reality, in these poems. Likewise, in "Variations on a Summer Day", we find an alternation between the "repetition of unconscious things" (232) and improvising on the piano. As the persona of "Connoisseur of Chaos", Stevens remarks that "a law of inherent opposites, of essential unity, is as pleasant as port", rejects theory, and then discovers it anew: ". . .And yet relations appears / A small relation expanding like the shade / Of cloud on sand. . ." (215).
The vast, tenebrous unity of Baudelaire's "Correspondences" surfaces in this poetry, by trial and error, seemingly; the temple becomes the belly, wherein Stevens' "tempestuous bird" (366) builds its nest and coos. Earth is a "jostling festival" (62) of sight and sound in Stevens' verse: "a boundless theatre of space" (67) in Radauskas. Their poetic worlds admit devils and angels, personifications of flowers, winds, storms, clouds, and seasonslike Stevens' summer, "the fat girl, terrestrial" (406). They exhibit unusual similes, for example, Radauskas's "rose like a penguin" or Stevens' "leaves like peacocks", in a procedure from dream pictures and the logic of games to total illusion.
Both poets dwell initially on repetitions in space and time, speaking of years and gorgeous wheels, the four seasons, "the day in its color . . . Time in its weather" (CP, 332); and the sun, "the poet's honor, fiery and old" in Radauskas (126), the riddle of "Again, the diva-dame" in Stevens (353). These subjects provide sufficient occasion for the proliferation of rhythms and rhymes into chants and complex metrical patterns; the liberation of color "in reflections and offshoots, mimic-motes and mist-mites, dangling seconds ... of the dazzling, bulbing, brightest core ..." (CP, 97).
Winter poems are especially remarkable for their poetic, imaginative qualities. Stevens' "Annual Gaiety" and Radauskas's "Winter's Tale", for example, develop from slight exaggerations of the scene, perceived affectively, to an illusion of summer and allusion to "once upon a time", respectively. The glitter of sunlight that "pinks and pinks the ice-hard melanchole" and provokes "joy of snow and snow" and "Annual Gaiety" shifts in the second stanza to "alligators . . . along the edges of the eye, basking in desert Florida" (OP, 32-33). In "Winter's Tale", the sparkle is seen in a quiet curve, as if through glass, "... a peaceful light through soft mist / rippling in a milky stream" (" . . . linija pro stiklą / Praėjo posūkio tyliu / Rami šviesa pro švelnią miglą /Čiurlena pieno upeliu", 71). As the evening takes on the fragrance of a dream and the snow-covered garden recedes into the past, the white curve appears like a procession of princes and barbers, white kings and bakers:
Žiūrėki: sninga, sninga, sninga.
Žiūrėki: baltas sodas minga
Nugrimzdo žemė praeity.
Ateina princai ir kirpėjai,
Balti karaliai ir kepėjai,
Ir šlama medžiai apsnigti, (p. 71)
Look, it's snowing, snowing, snowing,
The white orchard slumbers,
Earth is immersed in the past.
Princes and barbers appear,
White kings and bakers,
In the murmur of snow-covered trees.
While Stevens' "chant of the January fire" brings on the tide of midsummer, the freshness of snow in "Winter's Tale" recalls the scent of lilies and lindens in spring. In both poems, refrains and the repetition of words introduce original imagery, bringing the year to full circle by a combination of metonymy and synecdoche. As Northrop Frye explains,
The imagination, the principle of the unreal, breaks up and breaks down the tyranny of what is there by unifying itself with what is not there and so suggesting the principle of variety in its existence.12
The poet resembles the listener in Stevens' "Snowman," "who beholds Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is" (CP, 10).
The allusion to fairy tale characters in Radauskas's poem in the context of rustling trees and mounds of snow echoes a stanza in Stevens' "Credences of Summer," moreover:
It is the rock of summer, the extreme,
A mountain luminous halfway in bloom
And then halfway in the extremest light
Of sapphires flashing from the central sky,
As if twelve princes sat before a king" (CP, 375).
Both Radauskas's "Quiet curve" and Stevens' "joy of snow and snow" relate to lines from the second section of "Credences": "... the arrested peace, joy of such permanence . . . the barrenness of the fertile thing that can attain no more" (373). Thus seasonal poems are apt to proceed from a fixation on time to timelessness, according to Stevens, "... the last day of a certain year / Beyond which there is nothing left of time" (372).
Radauskas is particularly adept in anachronistic and Utopian effects. The spatial forms in numerous poems, often floating in air, are underscored by a metrical rhythm and intonation associated with the recitation of folk tales, legends, and poems for children (such as the famous "Little Brown-Nosed Bear" by Bernardas Brazdžionis, a contemporary poet whom Radauskas admired very much). An untitled poem about the green lesson which nature repeats each year consequently assumes an aura of enchantment:
Kaip pamoką kasmet gamta kartoja
Ugningom gairėm nužymėtais metais,
Skersai gegužį vedančiu keliu
Taškais, spiralėm, linijom ir ratais
Nubėga medžiai ir pulkai arklių.
Melsvi malūnai gaudo jauną vėją,
Rausvi griaustiniai rieda virš kalvų,
Ir laumė, debesį praplėšus, lieja
Į žemę vyną septynių spalvų.
Like a lesson nature repeats
Green (each year)
With fiery landmarks, in designated years,
On a path (leading) across May
In dots, spirals, lines and circles
Trees and (troops of) horses run away.
Blue windmills pursue a young wind,
Ruddy thunders roll above the hills,
And a fairy, tearing through a cloud, pours
(Downward) to earth wine of seven colors. (OP, 39).
The prosody consists of iambic and anapestic measures with pyrrhic intervals, and an accent of "once upon a time." In "Winter Song" ("Žiemos Daina"), rambling syllables enhance this pattern, creating the effect of a charm or lullaby:
Sūkuriuotom gėlėm, pasiklydusiais paukščiais,
In a whirlwind of flowers, wandering birds
Nepaeinančiais, griūnančiais sniego kalnais
Motionless, falling mountains of snow
Apsitverė žiema neįžiūrimais aukščiais,
Winter enclosed itself with invisible heights,
Nepagaunamais, alpstančiais tonais švelniais... (p. 65).
Elusive, expiring delicate tones . .
Allusions to folklore form a significant thread in Radauskas's poetry alongside several references to Homer's Odyssey, Shakespearean figures, and Tristan and Isolde but they are seldom recognizable as traditional literary motifs. Witches, ghosts, animal musicians, mermaids, thunders, and storm goddesses merge with nature imagery; they might be considered a part of Radauskas' vocabulary. The "tale" like the "song" and the "play" is a subgenre in his lyrics, reminiscent of the composite medieval "reverdie". A few poems, however, reveal the tradition and indicate the unifying function of fairy tale elements throughout. "The Fountain" of 1935 in fact opens with "A Tale" ("Pasaka"): "... A tale descends (flies in), a warm tropical butterfly, and a variegated rain of rays sparkles ..." ("Atskrenda Pasaka, atogrąžų karšta plaštakė / Ir mirga margas spindulių lietus ..." p. 199). The story weaves the motifs of an orphan striding seven miles. Eglė the queen of serpents, gnomes' caverns with their treasure, a speaking stone and tree, and a fool in search of happiness, into a network of real elements: telephone wires, a locked door, train smoke, a flock of cranes, a lighthouse, a crawling spider, etc. The poem concludes with the statement, "I do not believe in the World, I believe in the Tale" ("Pasauliu netikiu, o Pasaka tikiu").
In Stevens, fiction also arises almost imperceptibly from everyday events, as a result of feeling and mood interacting with intense observation, "... a slight lurching of the scene, / A swerving, a tilting, a little lengthening, / A few more hours of the day, the unraveling / Of a ruddier summer..." he writes in "Nuns Painting Waterlilies" (OP, 92). Stevens' "Sea Surface Full of Clouds" is a good example of this "poetry of the subject", although the final effect of "fresh transfigurings of freshest blue" amidst the motion of waves is attained through verbal precision, in addition to a composition of allusions to "Fictions of the mind", 13 like Radauskas's references to fairy tales, which elaborate the effective distortion of the real scene. The lore of chocolate and umbrellas "rosy chocolate and gilt umbrellas", "chop house chocolate and sham umbrellas", "porcelain chocolate and pied umbrellas", "musky chocolate and frail umbrellas", "Chinese chocolate and large umbrellas" braces the "machine of ocean", providing a contrasting base for the imagery of "brilliant iris", "jelly yellow", "gongs", "crystal line pendentives", and a "blue beyond the rainy hyacinth", as well as a logical antecendents for the appearance of "the sea as turquoise-turbaned Sambo, neat at tossing saucers" (CP, 99-102). The result is a dream picture conveyed with mathematical exactitude, a balance of irrational and rational qualities, and an illusion of permanence in change.
Poetic allusiveness may be subconscious in both Radauskas's and Stevens' verse, given the sensibility of "Dream" or "Nomad Exquisite" and the habit of intellectual meditation. In the third canto of "Notes toward a Supreme Fiction", Stevens mentions "thought beating in the heart" (382) in describing the creative process, and he demonstrates the theory in the very same canto. Whereas the author explained the significance of the "Arabian" in the fifth stanza as the symbol of the moon in one of his letters,14 the figure may be related to S.T. Coleridge's "Kubla Khan", as Eleanor Cook shows convincingly in her article "Riddles, Charms and Fictions".15 She argues both intellectually, with regard to Coleridgean echoes, and intuitively, associating sound echoes in the vocabulary, referring mainly to the following stanzas:
The poem refreshes life so that we share,
For a moment, the first idea ... It satisfies
Belief in an immaculate beginning
And sends us, winged by an unconscious will,
To an immaculate end. We move between these points:
From that ever-early candor to its late plural
And the candor of them is the strong exhilaration
Of what we feel from what we think, of thought
Beating in the heart, as if blood newly came,
An elixir, an excitation, a pure power.
The poem, through candor, brings back a power again
That gives a candid kind to everything.
We say: At night an Arabian in my room,
With his damned hoobla-hoobla-how,
Inscribes a primitive astronomy,
Across the unscrawled fores the future casts
And throws his stars around the floor. By day
The wood-dove used to chant his hoobla-hoo
And still the grossest iridescence of ocean
Howls hoo and rises and howls hoo and falls.
Life's nonsense pierces us with strange relation. (382-83).
Reviewing "[what Harold Bloom calls] 'a Coleridgean idealization of poetry'" in the first three stanzas, Cook traces sensible word play from candid (Latin candidus), a 'dazzling white' associated with the moon, stars, day, swans, snow, gods and goddesses; thus she confirms Stevens' interpretation. Secondly, reading the canto as a riddle, or nonsense verse, she elucidates the connection with Kubla Khan. If 'hoo' is read as a transposition of the dove's 'coo', she writes, we hear the Arabian's sounds as 'coobla coobla coobla cow'; linked with can-did and 'hoobla how' the sounds prompt 'coobla can'. (A comparison of Stevens' poem with "Kubla Khan" follows these remarks.) Thus analyzed the canto exemplifies Northrop Frye's definition of lyric rhythm:
... an associative rhetorical process, most of it below the threshold of consciousness, a chaos of paronomasia, sound links, ambiguous sense links and memory links very like those of dreams.16
The luxuriance and resonance in Radauskas's and Stevens' lyrics stems from an initial appreciation of abundance in nature (and humanity). As indicated above, there is a proliferation of summer imagery in Stevens. Radauskas offers numerous versions of spring, though he remarks at one point that high art does not compare with a chestnut in bloom (Poems, p. 156). We find meditations on mountains and heights, such as Radauskas's "In the Hills" ("Kalnuose") and "Leaf" ("Lapas"); Stevens' "Auroras of Autumn" and "The Dove in the Belly". Abundance is suggested by frequent use of comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs, producing hyperbole, like word repetitions. The wind is "vocalissimus" (CP, 113) and "most cheerful" (154). "Crackles sing most spissantly, right puissantly" (CP, 113). Even as nature mocks this mode of superfluity, the poet wants "more" and so resorts to metaphor, what Stevens calls "Description Without Place" (339).
Metaphor relates to absolute fictions ("the merely going round , . . practicing mere repetitions" in Stevens' "Notes," p. 405) as change to permanence. Variously defined by Stevens and his critics as resemblance, metamorphosis, expectations, revelation, identification and conception, metaphor is opposed to silence, monotony, absurdity, and mechanical repetitions. The freshness that Stevens desires is the first idea in contrast to dogmatic tradition, the fragrant bouquet instead of rusty "red-in-red-repetitions" (CP, 400). Radauskas's first published poem (1929) was entitled "Silence";17 the poet's decision to write is a wave of echoes emerging from the night.
Both poets mention "myths" and "legends" of transformation in the totality of reality, which includes death. Stevens opposes the "legend of the maroon and olive forest" to the barbarous green of a plant that glares outside the legend (CP, 506), for instance. In his "Poesie Abrutie/' the "cineraria has a speaking sheen" (302). We find the dictation of stone in Radauskas's "Muse" (25), the last stage in the various transformation of a seamstress muse.18 One spring poem equates myth with the sense of spring: "... a myth rises from the very roots / The meaning of spring / A drop of dew rolls joyfully / And a song unfolds" (OP, 65). The metaphorical process is the occasion for Stevens' explicitly theoretical poems on poetry. Metaphor is the nominal subject of "The Pure Good of Theory", "The Human Arrangement", "Description with Place", "Thinking of a Relation Between the Images of Metaphors", and "The Bouquet", to name a few examples. The last, "The Bouquet", is eloquent as both image and theory:
The Bouquet stands in a jar, as metaphor
As lightning itself is, likewise, metaphor
Crowded with apparitions suddenly gone
And no less suddenly here again, a growth
Of the reality of the eye, an artifice
Nothing much, a flitter that reflects itself . . .
The infinite of the actual perceived,
A freedom revealed, a realization touched
The real made more acute by the unreal . . . (CP, 448; 451)
The ideas presented here are shown in "Woman Looking at a Vase of Flowers", an interplay between memory and the perception of light:
. . . how
High blue became particular
In the leaf and bud . . . how the central, essential red
Escaped its large abstraction, became
First, summer, then a lesser time,
Then the sides of peaches, of dusky pears (CP, 246).
Radauskas typically allegorizes the poetic process, as seen in "The Storm", "Poets or Catastrophe", "Arrow in the Sky", and most vividly a poem from the "Winter Song" collection entitled "Word", concluding with an emanation of buds and blossoms. The word's odyssey, comprised of four brief stanzas, refers, again, to folk tale episodes: the word, felled like a tree and imprisoned, dissects a stone wall with its footsteps . . . becomes the echo of a silver song, carried in the calm of a Western dawn; it is raised by Time, with roots still beneath December ground . . . the sun beats through its shell, the juices roar as long ago, flooding the sky with branches, covering earth with blossoms (p. 97). In the area of theory, then, Radauskas evidently differs from Stevens, although poetic images may coincide. Radauskas's concrete, symbolical presentation of the interaction between imagination and reality, both in terms of seasonal processes and with antinatural figures (for example, "Three Lines" in "Lightnings and Winds", or "Strange Spring" in the posthumous Poems) has influenced a reputation of remoteness and led to criticism of his "universe with laws of its own" (which nevertheless "... constitutes an achievement valid in all aspects of life").19 On the other hand, the obscure theoretical subtext suggests the difficulty of defining metaphor precisely.
In contrast to Radauskas's "Word," Stevens outlines the creative process in Crispin's psychological odyssey, "The Comedian as the Letter C." Moreover, he explains his belief in the good of theory and his tendency to make poetry the subject of the poem: in part V of the "Comedian" he states, "the words of things entangle and confuse. The plutn survives its poems" (CP, 70). In his commentary on "The Man with the Blue Guitar," Stevens describes the poetic process as a confrontation between the "lion in the lute" and "the monster. . . one faces: the lion locked in stone . . . which one wishes to match . . . "20 Radauskas conveys similar thoughts in reverse, when the seamstress "Muse" is by turn dissolved into abstract shapes in reality and transformed into a statue which changes everything in sight: the muse has most vitality as a living statue, as art.
The dominant images in Stevens' metaphors pertain to the "speaking shee'n" mentioned above, in the poetical sense of "splendid attire" as well as the primary one, "glistening brightness." Stevens alternately colors the sea with "brilliant iris" and covers it with "shrouding shadows", "damasks" and "mile-mallows" (100-101). He speaks of "people in costumes . . . right for terraces" (367); the "sky and sun, belted and knotted, sashed and seamed, half pales of red, half pales of green, appropriate habit for the huge decorum" and the personae of summer "in the moodiest costumes" (377-78). In "Notes toward a Supreme Fiction" (2, viii), Nanzia Nunzio wears a "tictive covering that weaves always glistening from the heart and mind" a variant of the "seeming of the sun" and the green queen who made the world around her green in "Description without Place". As expressions of thoughts and feelings, the colors and costumes represent "The infinite of the actual perceived", like the apparitions in Stevens' "Bouquet."
Radauskas also appropriates color to feeling; indeed, he saturates surfaces with movement and evokes hues figuratively to intensify their effect: "roses burn with live coals / And lilacs overflow with foam" ("Ir dega žarijomis rožės / Ir putomis drimba alyvos," 145). Most often, however, a sheen is created by musical sound, and colors sing in his poems. "The water dressed itself in a modest melody" (vanduo apsirengė melodija kuklia", 30; "a stream ran beside the linden, vibrating with all its strings" ("upelis bėgo pagal liepą / virpėdamas visom stygom", 73); "slippery glass winds resound / around trees singing in green" ("Ir skamba vėjai slidūs ir stikliniai / Aplink medžius dainuojančius žaliai", 159), indicate the continuous symphony which proceeds from Radauskas's poetic manifesto, "The Birth of a Song", where he listens to the wind's melody and records it in the sand. The poet's musical instrument, the reed-pipe, to which a poem in "Winter Song" is devoted ("Švilpynės" "The Shepherd's Pipe", p. 66), is carved from blooming bark.
It might be noted that sheen refers both to hearing and sight in its etymology. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the Indo-European root keu1 means 'to pay attention, watch observe, see and hear'. From its o-grade form kou and extended form kous ('hear, harken'), we have the suffixed variants like Greek akouein and English acoustic; from the alternate skou ('to show, look at'), the Germanic schoon, becoming skone, and the Old English sciene, 'bright, sheen', producing sheen. This ambiguity recalls Stevens' comments on the imagination and reality in his essay "The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words": "... not a choice of one over the other and not a decision that divides them, but something subtler, a recognition that here, too . . . the universal interdependence exists."21
The adventure of matching poems by Wallace Stevens and Henrikas Radauskas could be extended to the intersection of "The Emperor of Ice Cream" and "The Unicorn", approximately, where the former meditates on being, and the latter on nothingness. Stevens' longer philosophical poems, such as "Esthetique du Mal", "Owl's Clover", or "Addresses to the Academy of Fine Ideas", are outside the comparison. Likewise Radauskas's images of violence and alienation, juxtaposed to startling aesthetic forms and transpositions of folklore, found particularly in the "Lightnings and Winds" collection. Many poems would support another topic, possibly the relation between art and death, or "metaphor as degeneration" (from a poem so called in Stevens, CP, 444).
To some extent, the comparison is mutually illuminating. Stevens' "Notes toward a Supreme Fiction", with its sections on abstractness, change and pleasure, offers a perspective on Radauskas's figures whirling in the air, his spectres, and other, often circular, transformations. Radauskas's images of the creative process the storm, catastrophe, the arrow's flight complement Stevens' presentation of the blue guitar which changes things as they are and elucidate the latter as primarily feeling, within the combination of heart and mind. Classical, Romantic, Modern, and Post-Modern characteristics in each poet are gradually clarified.
Because it concerns pure poetry, the comparison develops at every step into a method of explanation or parameter of broader theoretical subjects: metaphor, Romantic imagination, Aristotelian imitation as it pertains to the concept of analogy. Mostly, the comparison brings out the idea of permanence and change, and suggests that Stevens' and Radauskas's variety of pure poetry is essentially relation, an imitation or expression of the "ever-never-changing-same" (CP, 353). The most important equations here are "never-same" and "ever-changing."
I. Wallace Stevens.
Benamou, Michel. Wallace Stevens and the Symbolist Imagination.
Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Wallace Stevens. New York: Chelsea House, 1985.
Borroff, Marie, ed. Wallace Stevens: A Collection of Critical Essays.Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963.
Brown, Ashley, and Haller, Robert S., eds. The Achievement of Wallace Stevens. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1962.
Buttel, Robert. Wallace Stevens: The Making of Harmonium. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.
Cook, Eleanor. "Riddles, Charms, and Fictions." In Modern Critical Views: Wallace Stevens. Ed. with an Introduction by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1985. 151-164.
Doggett, Frank. Wallace Stevens: The Making of a Poem. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.
Frye, Northrop. "The Realistic Oriole: A Study of Wallace Stevens." In Wallace Stevens: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Marie Borroff. Prentice-Hall, 1963. 161-176.
"Wallace Stevens and the Variation Form." In Spiritus Mundi. Blooming-ton: Indiana University Press, 1976. 275-294.
Perils, Alan. Wallace Stevens: A World of Transforming Shapes. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1976.
Stevens, Wallace. Three Academic Pieces. Cummington, Ma: The Cummington Press, 1947.
The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination. London: Faber and Faber, 1951.
The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957.
Opus Posthumous by Wallace Stevens. Ed. with an Introduction by Samuel French Morse. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966.
Letters of Wallace Stevens. Ed. Holly Stevens. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966.
The Palm at the End of the Mind. Selected Poems and a Play by Wallace Stevens. Hamden, Ct: Archon Books, 1984.
II. Henrikas Radauskas.
Šlekaitis, Jurgis. "Radauskas." Lituanus. Vol. 25, No. 3 (1979). 37-69.
Ivask, Ivar. "The Contemporary Lithuanian Poet Henrikas Radauskas." Lituanus. Vol. 5, No. 3 (September 1959). 86-90.
Nyka-Niliūnas, Alfonsas. "Introduction." In Henrikas Radauskas. Poems (1965-1970). Ed. with Notes by Jurgis Šlekaitis. Chicago: Vytautas Saulius,1978. 7-23.
Radauskas, Henrikas. Poems. Chicago: Vytautas Saulius, 1965.
Poems (1965-1970). Ed. with Notes by Jurgis Blekaitis. Chicago: Vytautas Saulius, 1978.
Šilbajoris, Rimvydas. "Henrikas Radauskas-the Passion of the Intellect." In Perfection of Exile: Fourteen Contemporary Lithuanian Writers. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970. 25-55.
Zdanys, Jonas. "The Applied Aestheticism of Henrikas Radauskas." Lituanus. Vol. 23, No. 1 (1977). 23-34.
Trans. "Selections from the Poetry of Henrikas Radauskas." Lituanus. Vol. 23, No. 1 (1977). 35-41.
1 Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, eds., Twentieth Century Authors (New York:
H.W. Wilson, 1942), quoting Paul Rosenfeld's critique of "The Comedian as the Letter C" and the "Harvard Advocate" of 1940, Wallace Stevens Issue, 1344-1345.
2 Wallace Stevens, "The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination" (London: Faber and Faber, 1951), p. 130; Opus Posthumous by Wallace Stevens, ed. with an introduction by Samuel French Morse (New York: Knopf, 1966), "Adagia", p. 166.
3 Northrop Frye, "The Realistic Oriole: A Study of Wallace Stevens", in Wallace Stevens: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Marie Borroff (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1963), pp. 161-176; Harold Bloom, "Introduction," in Modern Critical Views: Wallace Stevens, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House, 1985), pp. 1-13.
4 Alfonsas Nyka-Niliūnas, "Introduction", in Henrikas Radauskas, Eilėraščiai (Poems) 1965-1970 (Chicago: Vytautas Saulius, 1978), pp. 13 and 17;
Rimvydas Šilbajoris, "The Passion of the Intellect", in Šilbajoris, Perfection of Exile: Fourteen Contemporary Lithuanian Writers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970), pp. 26-27.
6 Opus Posthumous by Wallace Stevens, op. cit., p. 222.
7 Ibid., Samuel French Morse, "Introduction," p. XXXII.
8 Ibid., Wallace Stevens, "On the Irrational Element in Poetry," pp. 221-222.
9 Jurgis Šlekaitis, "Radauskas," Lituanus Vol. 25, No. 3 (1979), p. 45; also Alfonsas Nyka-Niliūnas, op. cit., p. 17.
10 Samuel French Morse, "Introduction" to Opus Posthumous by Wallace Stevens, citing Stevens' statement for the editors of the Oxford Anthology of American Literature of 1938, xxxvii-viii.
11 Jurgis Šlekaitis, ed., Henrikas Radauskas, Eilėraščiai 1965-1970, "On the Poet's Manuscripts", p. 77.
12 "Wallace Stevens and the Variation Form", in Northrop Frye, Spiritus Mundi: Essays on Literature, Myth, and Society (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976), p. 282.
13 In his poem "Recitation after Dinner", Stevens describes tradition as "survivals out of space and time . . . parts of the general fiction of the mind ..." Opus Posthumous, pp. 87-88.
14 Frank Doggett, Wallace Stevens: the Making of the Poem (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), '"the Arabian', Stevens wrote to Simons, ' . . . is the moon; the undecipherable vagueness of the moonlight is the unscrawled fores ... the fact that the Arabian is the moon is something that the reader could not possibly know'/' citing the tetters of Wallace Stevens (433-34), p. 115.
15 In Modern Critical Views: Wallace Stevens, ed. with Introduction by Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House, 1985), pp. 151-164.
16 The Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton University Press, 1957), p. 271.
17 Jurgis Šlekaitis, ed., Henrikas Radauskas, Eilėraščiai 1965-1970, Lithuanian "Tyluma", published in the journal "Young Lithuania" ("Jaunoji Lietuva"), Nos. 5-6 (July-August 1929), pp. 86-87.
18 See Rimvydas Silbajoris's interesting commentary on this poem in Perfection of Exile, op. cit., pp. 45-46.
19 Ibid., p. 27; also Jonas Zdanys, "The Applied Aestheticism of Henrikas Radauskas", Lituanus Vol. 23 No. 1 (1977), pp. 23-34.
20 Letters of Wallace Stevens, ed. Holly Stevens (New York: Knopf, 1966), to Hi Simons, p. 360.
21 In "The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination," op. cit., p. 24.